Posted on 03/09/20 by in Stories from The Well
By Sarah Yeung
“What are you going to do?” This is the first question I am asked when people found out I’m taking a sabbatical from a corporate career.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
Focusing on my breath, I noticed…
Sometimes, my breath just flows. From one to the next easefully, smoothly.
Sometimes, they are shallow and erratic – almost likely they’re jumping and grasping for air.
Sometimes, there’re little pauses in between the inhales and exhales.
Pauses are natural. Pauses help us notice, before moving on.
Yet – how often do we pause?
Like other aspects of my life, my career has had exciting moments and mundane times. I have worked on projects and with people I really enjoyed; some not as much. I held various types of work, tried different industries, moved up the career ladder successfully. I didn’t hate work. At the same time, work felt more and more like a hamster wheel where I kept trekking along year after year.
It’s like I have been holding my breath - without intending to - for way too long. I needed some fresh air! It was time to pause. A sabbatical is that pause for me.
In “modern life”, where over-doing, busyness, “go-go-go” are glorified, it’s scary to step off the typically linear path, even if temporary! The peanut gallery in my mind offered a million reasons why voluntarily taking a break was a bad idea, like “what if people think I’m crazy or suck at my job?”, “what if I won’t get a job ever again?”
But I also felt curious. It felt right for this moment. And I felt ready. For what? Not totally sure, but I was ready to be open.
Feeling courageous and scared – 4 months ago, I took a leap and left my job to start a sabbatical!
“What are you going to do”?
Maybe less about doing anything – I am grateful for this gift of time to…
Undo old patterns that no longer serve. Shed the compartmentalized pieces of me that may be outdated. Beyond “title”, “role”, “doing”, embody a more integrated, holistic me.
Do less. Let go of overstuffed schedule and make space for organic evolution. Be open and welcome opportunities and creativity.
The more perspectives, groundedness, and energy we have, the more we have to share.
Less doing - More being. Embrace myself. Embrace unknown. Embrace the world.
True Body Project Cambodia
During the third month of my sabbatical, I visited Cambodia for the first time. Part of my trip was with True Body Project (TBP) leader cross-cultural training.
I first learned about True Body Project about 12 years ago in my 20s. I just started my recovery journey from eating disorders, depression, and PTSD and was looking for activities to help support my recovery. I was hesitant since it sounded like a “perfect body”-obsessed program! Thankfully, it turned out to be exactly the opposite!
Many of us have become so accustomed to disconnecting with ourselves, intentionally or subconsciously – often as learned responses to trauma. The somatic movements and mindfulness exercises help remind our bodies and minds how to be “at ease”, instead of being in a constantly tensed state. I felt a pause and relief in my constantly thinking, overloaded mind. Along with therapy, yoga, and other modalities, TBP helped me become more empowered and connected with my body, mind, and spirit. As my own recovery and wellness journey evolved, I was inspired to learn more about different techniques and modality to share with and help support others.
In Cambodia, I gathered with 10+ other participants who were from all over the world with diverse backgrounds and experiences. We learned and practiced trauma-informed techniques. We offered self-care sessions for NGO workers facing trauma daily (e.g. human trafficking, poverty). We interacted with university women and little kids to trade stories about our lives around the world. We taught breathing exercises to students and groups. We visited temples and received blessings. We tasted delicious dishes. We navigated through traffic in tuk-tuks.
We listened. We shared. We learned. We felt. We breathed. We embodied. We rooted. We grew.
While visiting with university women, one told me she’d like the world to know that Cambodia is not just tragedies we may see from movies and news. Yes, genocide killed over a third of its population in the 1970s and created tremendous suffering and challenges many are still overcoming. Yes, Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in SE Asia with average annual income under $2000. It also has a rich history and beautiful culture. On this journey, I am grateful to have experienced many people who epitomized resiliency and a smile and a light that shone – perhaps not despite of, but because of – the darkness and challenges they have seen.
No matter where we are in the world, when we close our eyes and breathe…we don’t see colors, countries, backgrounds, or things that may separate us. When we pause, notice, and breathe together…our energies, our inhales and exhales eventually synchronize as a group. We are reminded…we are all connected.
May we gift ourselves time to pause. Maybe it is a sabbatical. Maybe it is a day off. Maybe it is one deep breath. Within us, in our community, or half way across the world - we may be surprised by what is waiting to be found when we Pause. Reset. Connect.
Take your own moment to pause with this grounding exercise.
Sarah Yeung is passionate about spreading the message of hope, promoting wellness and resiliency, and building supportive communities. As an author, speaker, and advocate, she has brought awareness about mental illnesses and mental health to diverse audience for over 10 years, often sharing her experience and recovery.
She is a certified yoga instructor and has trained in various sound, mindfulness, and energy modalities in Asia and the U.S. She particularly enjoys learning and sharing trauma-informed offerings to remind us all to breathe, connect, and integrate.
She is currently taking a sabbatical from her corporate career – taking a pause, experimenting, restoring, traveling, refreshing, being.